The first ODI between India and South Africa was on Thursday abandoned without a ball being bowled due to incessant rain Dharamsala.
It was the second match in less than six months to be abandoned at the picturesque Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium because of inclement weather.
Incidentally, that match was also an India-South Africa clash in September last year.
The first ODI of the three-match series was always in doubt after the weatherman forecast widespread rains and thundershowers over the region on Thursday and Friday because of fresh western disturbance over north Pakistan and adjoining Jammu and Kashmir.
Fans and organisers had offered prayers at the Indrunag Temple in the hills overlooking the stadium in an attempt to appease the rain gods.
Heavy rain had also lashed the hill town just after the two teams’ practice sessions on Wednesday, forcing the organisers to cover the entire playing area.
If that was not enough, it rained the entire night on the eve of the match.
It was overcast for major part of the day and heavens opened up just before the start. It rained on and off after that, forcing the toss to be delayed and bringing ground staff into action.
The rain was not that heavy but was enough for water to accumulate, forcing organisers to press three super-soppers into action.
But despite working tirelessly, the ground staff failed to clear the ground, forcing the on-field umpires to call off the match.
The cut-off time for a 20-over game was 6.30pm (IST) but the on-field umpires made their final inspection and decided to abandon the match much before that.
The novel coronavirus outbreak and adverse weather conditions affected ticket sales as well.
The second ODI of the series will be played in Lucknow on March 15 while the third and final match will be in Kolkata’s iconic Eden Gardens on March 18.
Lucknow, Kolkata ODIs to be held in empty stadiums
The remaining two one-dayers between India and South Africa will be played in empty stadiums in Lucknow and Kolkata due to the dreaded novel coronavirus pandemic.
The matches are scheduled to be held in March 15 (Lucknow) and March 18 (Kolkata).
The BCCI confirmed in a statement on Thursday that the matches will be held without any spectators.
The sports ministry has issued an advisory that in case it’s unavoidable to postpone a sporting event, then it is preferable that it be conducted without a large public gathering.
“After holding discussions with the MYAS and MOHFW, the BCCI on Thursday announced that the remaining two One-day Internationals of the three-match series of South Africa tour of India, 2020, will be played without any public gathering, including spectators,” a BCCI statement read.
Only TV crew, commentators and journalists will be allowed inside the stadium, apart from the players and support staff.
The BCCI is starting with its closed-door policy as the fifth day of the Ranji Trophy final will be played in an empty stadium in Rajkot.
Here is the full BCCI statement on the issue:
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been working closely with the Government of India along with Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) in the wake of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
After holding discussions with the MYAS and MOHFW, the BCCI on Thursday announced that the remaining two One-day Internationals (ODIs) of the three-match series of South Africa tour of India, 2020, will be played without any public gathering, including spectators.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), on Wednesday, assessed that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic. The BCCI is making every effort for compliance with the regulatory bodies of the Government of India and ensure the safety of our athletes and valued fans.
The BCCI will continue to take guidance from the Government of India and state regulatory bodies.